The Skeptic's Guide to The Universe

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chapter Eleven; MORALITY AND MANKIND part forty-one

While it it's not as big issue using some of the moral teachings of the Bible to guide your life, it is nothing but a delusion to believe the stories of the Old and New Testament are based upon reality and science. I may not be able to convince the devout followers to abandon their faith in the fairy stories of the ancients and become and atheist as I am but I may be able to convince some moderate followers to see the wonders of nature and live their life for what we know and maybe get them to learn more about the wonderful Universe we live in.

From the Clovis civilizations museum near Portales, NM operated by the Eastern New Mexico University shows some actual artifacts from the items discovered of the Paleo-American civilizations and also has models of the dug out housing used by the people at that time. The ancient Clovis civilization is said to have roamed the Eastern plains in North America in search of Mammoth and Bison for food and other societal uses from 13,500 years ago. The artifacts found in the museum have been studied and sent to experts all over the country and world to help in the accurate understanding of the prehistoric Americans.

In a recent trip to New Mexico I was fortunate enough to visit the Eastern New Mexico University exhibit of the Blackwater Draw National Archaeological Site documenting the Clovis and Folsom civilizations. Near Portales, New Mexico there is an excavation site that was discovered in 1929 by Ridgely Whiteman of Clovis, New Mexico. At this site many bones and artifacts of ancient Paleo-American people and animals were found. These include discoveries of such extinct animals as the dire wolf, mammoths, giant ground sloths, American camels and horses, giant armadillos, American lion as well as the remnants of items left behind by the people living in this area for more than 13,000 years ago. It is hard not to see things like this as inspiring to myself and anyone else who may view the skills of our ancient ancestors. Knowing that my ancestors were able to adapt and use their environment to suit their need to survive so many thousands of years ago. The evidence is so overwhelming and pervasive, yet this small museum seems to have very little traffic through it. It is inconspicuously placed at the far end of a highway rest stop. Just waiting for the knowledge of its amazing artifacts to get seen by people. And those visitors learn about the people that lived in America before the time of the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians , Egyptians and many other ancient civilizations. We have many artifacts of these early Americans. It would lead one to wonder what keys to social and technical development did these people take or skip to not have grown into a more prominent civilization?

At that time, 13,000 years ago the findings of the Blackwater Draw indicate that the climate was much more humid and wetter with greater vegetation and rain than the climate is now in Eastern New Mexico. Maybe with the plentiful food and water their motivation to make a more advance civilization was not high on the priority list of these people. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” If there is not much to look for to survive then there is not need to advance the civilization. The Middle Eastern Civilizations had scarcity of food and water so they had to create a hierarchy of who would rule and how. So this is just my hypothesis of why the civilizations didn't advance as fast as the Middle Eastern ones. I use the word “advance” selectively as we really have no idea of the cultural advancements of this race and what knowledge they may have possessed. There is not a written record of their society.
This archaeological site and museum is well worth visiting if you ever find yourself out in the area. It is not just my recommendation but, “The Carnegie Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Academy of Natural Sciences, National Science Foundation, United States National Museum, National Geographic Society and more than a dozen major universities either have funded or participated in research at Blackwater Draw National Archaeological Site.”

This hole is a 11,000 year old hand dug well near Portales, New Mexico dug by the Clovis people of ancient America. At this time there were many megafauna that lived in America including the Mammoth. This well is older than what most of the young Earth supporters believe that the age of the entire Universe is younger than this whole in eastern New Mexico. This well is at the Blackwater Draw National Archaeological Site.

I would conclude that the people that believe in a creator and a young Earth either have to discount the evidence of these findings or somehow believe that they are less than 6000 years old. It is true that the same physical evidence can reveal different ideas of what it is and what it means. But even if I accepted their young Earth age, the evidence of these amazing animals is proof for substantial change in just a few thousand years. The tools of Paleo-American man are found in many of the bones of the animals discovered in the Blackwater Draw Nationals Archaeological Site including Mammoths. Most ID followers will “accept” what they call micro-evolution, and this is clear evidence of it happening on a large scale. The next step is to have them let loose of that ancient time line so they can see how the steps of evolution are in place to fill the steps from 3.5 Billion years back to Today.

I recently read some of the points made by Intelligent Design supporters and have found that most of the points they try to use to express their ideas of “natural implausibility” are usually based upon either ignorance of the material or blatant misrepresentation of written material. One may wish to research into the Dunning-Kruger Effect to help explain the issue of how ignorance helps a person feel smarter then they actually are. One such example is from the book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design by Jonathan Wells, Ph.D. In chapter nine he does a section on DNA which for the most part is really informative and I learned something from it. For one he points out that the ratio of DNA matched pairs are always equal in a gene. So adenine and guanine pair up so the ratio of these two molecules will always be equal and the thymine and cytosine pair up so these molecules will always be in the same ratio. This helps to explain how the DNA will always “seek” out the proper molecule to fill the right spot on the DNA sequence. That was some good basic information that would help a person to understand a little about DNA. Then in the chapter he throws in a quote from Microsoft founder Bill Gates about how DNA is like a computer code but more complex. Again, this point I will gladly concede. Like the sea shell I talked about before the DNA structure has had 3.5 to 4 billion year head start to get the pattern “right or wrong.” With this as a bridge from the basic DNA information he presented, he says references two source that the minimum numbers of genes to make a living cell is 250 genes. Oddly enough when I check the second of his source the it says only ~80 of the 250 genes were viable for life. The gene set was made up of 250 gene pairs but there are ~80 that are represented in all life. I will not try to interpret this any further since I am not a scientist but it is clear to me that Wells is being intellectually dishonest in his presentation of other people's work in his book. His thesis is that if a single cell needs at least 250 genes for the life process to happen that there is not enough time in the known Universe for this sequence to develop. And the conclusion is that the “information in DNA sequence is extremely complex.”

Wells fails to point out the cause and effect relationship for this conclusion. He also fails to use what time scale he is referring to. Wells also seems to impart some special pleading for the idea of information. Since we live in the Information Age, Wells may be using the popular meaning of that word. This is surely the terminology the Gates was referring to earlier. But in nature, information is any bit of data. It doesn't mean that the information is something created. It just means it exists. The distance from Earth to the Moon is information. The air temperature is another bit of information. How far your holding this book from your eyes is another piece of information. The way DNA matches up with its matched pair is information. But that is information in the sense that we are humans and use information to understand the world. A dog or pig or tree uses information about the world it is living in as well. The science of biology is basically a combination of chemistry and physics and that is the type of information a person must have at least a layman's understanding to understand the natural processes that will support the science that is used to explain the process of natural selection and evolution. The need for water and water itself is universally needed for life, as far as we know, so all life forms on Earth tend to have a mechanism for them to find the things that make them live. Water, some sort of gas for respiration, and for most forms of life, sexual reproduction. The biology of life is simply a matter of chemical and physical ideas coming together to produce life as we know it.

A simple way to look at how a biological process happens is the same as a chemical process. Let's take for instance a portion of gunpowder and we place that power on a table in a circle with enough room that it doesn't burn the powder next to it and we light the end point. When a certain chemical reaction is present, activity occurs. The heat from the flame makes the chemicals in the gunpowder begin an exothermic reaction releasing heat and light. This reaction continues unabated until something acts upon it. Say for instance water. The reaction would stop and would not start back up until the powder was dried or a high temperature was able to restart it.

This reaction is one of a more simple examples of the many many hundreds to thousands to millions that have happen over the period of time to produce the person reading this book today. I am sure you can think of at least a half dozen ways that the thought experiment I described could be different to produce a different result.

FROM: GOD IS NOT GREAT: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

“What believers will do, now that their faith is optional and private and irrelevant, is a matter for them. We should not care as long as they make no further attempt to inculcate religion by any form of coercion.”

Finally, faith answers all questions...with nothing.

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